I've taken the GRE twice in my life: once (ahem) many years ago in preparation for the master's degree that I already have, and once this past Friday for the one I am thinking of pursuing. It turns out that a lot of things change between your early twenties and late thirties, and the GRE is no exception. It's not that I remember enjoying it the first time around, but it wasn't quite the production then that it is now.
I don't remember a whole lot from my first GRE experience. No doubt this is in part due to the fact that it was some time ago, but I also don't think it was that big of a deal. I remember going to a test center on campus and sitting in front of a computer. I'm pretty sure I had my backpack with me, and that it just sat on the floor next to me while I took the test. I don't remember any special instructions about what I could/could not wear or bring with me.
This time around, the first thing that caught my attention when I registered was that test-takers were not allowed to wear any jewelry aside from wedding or engagement rings. This bummed me out because I like jewelry and wearing it makes me feel happier and more confident (not necessarily a bad thing when you're taking a test that lasts several hours and costs $200). It also brought back an odd memory from middle school. Someone in a position of authority at my school decided it would be a great idea to bring in a speaker to scare all the students about prison. I don't know if this had a positive impact on anyone else's life, but it was pretty much a wash for me as the only thing I remember was this person threatening us that if we went to prison, "they" would take away all of our earrings. This made some sort of impression on me at the time because (a) even as someone who seriously enjoys jewelry, this seemed like kind of a flimsy reason not to cause trouble, and (b) how many earrings did this person think we were all walking around with at any given time? Most middle schoolers, no matter how disagreeable, are still pretty much under their parents' thumbs, and I don't think very many of my classmates had piercings that would have necessitated wearing more than two earrings at once.
We were similarly forbidden to wear watches of any kind during the GRE this time around. When you take the computerized version of the test, you can see how much time you have left on the section you're working on, but in my mind, that is very different from knowing what time it is in the world outside of the testing room. It definitely contributed to the long-haul punishment vibe of the experience.
To top it all off, I had to push up my sleeves to show my wrists, lift up the cuffs of my pants to show my ankles, and turn my pockets inside out before I started the test. I also was wanded on both my front and back sides before starting the test and after my mid-test break before I was allowed to go back into the room.
Suffice to say, I'm glad to have the experience behind me. If I do end up doing a second master's degree, I think I'll need to call it quits after that. In another ten years or so, I fear all the test-takers will be subjected to body cavity searches and be forced to wear identical jumpsuits into the testing room, and I think I'm too old and grouchy to cope with that.